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The Six Cs of Effective Messages


Communication Perspectives

Section 4


Section 1


Section 5


Section 2


Section 6


Section 3



Learning Objectives

1 Revise messages to reflect courtesy.

2 Revise messages to enhance clarity.

3 Apply techniques that ensure concise messages.

4 Make messages concrete by providing specific information.

5 Review messages for correct content, mechanics, and appearance.

6 Determine whether a message meets the completeness criteria of who,

what, when, where, why, and how.


Correct Word Choice

As the polling editor for USA TODAY for the past 15 years, my fundamental

task has been to meld two professions—public opinion research and

daily journalism—that exist to communicate.

For me, the communication process consists of two steps:

First, I help create polls. Each poll is, in effect, listening to what

Americans think about the issues of the day.

Second, I help the newspaper publish articles about the poll

results. The paper speaks to Americans about their attitudes on

the issues of the day.

Anyone who works as a newspaper reporter for very long winds up in

the embarrassing position of having to run a correction to a story. I have been involved in my share. Printing corrections certainly drives home the

point of how difficult communicating clearly and correctly can be.


The most concrete lessons I’ve learned about how easily communication can “jump the tracks” have come from the polling side of my job. The lessons are concrete and measurable.

One example occurred in July 1999. The USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup

polling team wanted to know how Americans thought the federal budget

surplus should be used. We asked half the people in our poll, “Would you

prefer to see the budget surplus used to increase spending on other

government programs or to cut taxes?” We realized, however, that the

phrase “spending on government programs” had powerful negative

connotations for many respondents. For the other half of the people being

polled, we spelled out some of the ways the money might be spent: “Would

you prefer to see the budget surplus used to increase spending on

education, defense, Medicare, and other programs or to cut taxes?” The

addition of those few words caused support for spending to jump from

28 percent to 61 percent.

Time and time again I have seen such seemingly minor question tweaking

lead to major shifts in responses. Each time it happens, I am reminded

once again how powerful words are and how elusive the goal of effective

communication can be.

Even though no one can ever achieve total mastery of the art of

communication, lessons are to be learned that can improve one’s efforts.

The rewards for such improvements are well worth the effort.

James Norman, Polling Editor

USA TODAY Section 1: COURTESY The Six Cs Courtesy helps you maintain goodwill by showing
Section 1:
The Six Cs
Courtesy helps you maintain goodwill by showing concern for the reader.
Goodwill is a feeling of confidence based on honesty and reliable service.






You can also describe courtesy as diplomacy. For example, when

government officials from different countries meet, they employ some of the

same strategies you use in showing concern for the reader of your messages.

Both parties prepare by researching the other’s culture and language

(developing the you attitude). If a disagreement arises, the representatives

try to be objective and polite (using positive words) rather than insulting.

The officials use appropriate gender references during their dialogue

(selecting gender-free terms). After the meeting, further negotiations and

relations between the two countries are aided by meeting communication

deadlines (responding to messages promptly).

All communicators should demonstrate courtesy by following these methods:

Develop the you attitude.

Use positive words.

Select gender-free terms.

Respond to messages promptly.

Develop the You Attitude

To develop the you attitude in communication, a writer or speaker must

project empathy into business messages, replace I or we with you or your,

and address the receiver by name.

Empathy means imagining yourself in the receiver’s position. In written

communication, apply the same tact that you would use if you were talking

directly to the receiver. When you talk with a person, body language helps

project your meaning. When you write, you have only words to convey the

meaning. The reader must understand exactly what you intend because

many business decisions depend entirely on the written word. A misused or

misunderstood word can confuse the reader and cost a business money.

Thus, when you write or speak, avoid colloquialisms, jargon, and any words

or phrases that might be offensive.

Replace I or we with you or your to establish your friendly intent as a

writer. In your message, emphasize the benefits to the reader. Consider the

following examples:


I/We Attitude

You/Your Attitude

I will issue a $25.82 credit to

you on your December invoice.

You will receive a $25.82 credit

on your December invoice.

We will provide free event

shirts for volunteers to wear at

the race.

All volunteers may wear free

event shirts at the race.

Timely Tip
Timely Tip

Jargon includes technical

or specialized language

used in a profession,

trade, or group.

Even requests for action and unfavorable responses may create goodwill

when the emphasis is on the reader’s benefits. The following examples

illustrate how an unpleasant message can be courteous and incorporate the

you attitude.


I/We Attitude

You/Your Attitude

After September 15, I will

Please protect your enrollment.

drop all students who have

Sign and return your

not signed and returned their

Acceptable Use Form by

Acceptable Use Form.

September 15.

We require a $300 minimum

When you maintain a $300

balance in order for customers

minimum balance, you receive

to receive free checks.

free checks.

Use the reader’s name in the message to emphasize the person’s importance. When you respond to a written message, obtain the correct spelling of the name from the sender’s message. If you originate the message and you are

unsure of the correct spelling, call the business and ask for the correct

spelling of the individual’s name and title. Illustration 2-1 on page 33

shows how a person’s name can be used effectively in a message.

Use Positive Words

Courteous messages use positive words. Positive words show respect for

the reader and reflect the you attitude. People are more open to the content

of positive messages than of negative ones. Refer to Table 2-1 for a list of

negative words that undermine positive messages.

Table 2-1

Negative Words to Avoid














Both word choice and sentence structure can change a negative tone

into a positive tone. Structure your sentences to state what can be done

rather than what cannot be done. The next examples show how word

choice can change a negative tone into a positive tone.


Negative Tone

Positive Tone

Never allow customers to shop

without first greeting them.

Always greet customers as

soon as they arrive.

We do not make exchanges

for purchases without receipts.

With your receipt, you may

exchange any purchase.

Select Gender-Free Terms

Some nouns, especially job titles, refer to either men or women. Gender-free

terms grant both sexes equal status and respect. Terminology that stereotypes

or indicates bias against either men or women is called sexist language.

Stereotypes may imply that racial and ethnic groups, women, men, or individuals

with disabilities are superior or inferior to others. Thus, words that stereotype

people may offend readers and lessen opportunities to create goodwill.

Alternatives to sexist terms are listed in the following examples.

Examples: Sexist Gender-Free


police officer


customer service assistant


craft worker




supervisor or manager


mail carrier





101 Main Street • Branson, Missouri 65616-2730

Telephone: 417.555.1000 • Fax: 417.555.1100

March 10, 20—

Mr. Hayato Matsumi

International Publishing Co. Ltd.

2338, Shiokawa




Dear Mr. Matsumi:

Thank you for stopping at the Tourist Information Center during your recent

visit to Branson, Missouri. While you were in the Center, you were kind

enough to sign the Visitor Register.

Please complete and return the enclosed visitor profile survey. The information

that you provide will allow us to better serve the needs of our future visitors.

When your completed survey is received, a $100 Bass Pro Shops Outdoor

World Gift Certificate will be mailed to you. The certificate is redeemable in the

online store at

Mr. Matsumi, please plan a return visit to Branson in the near future.


Marsha Dickerson

Marsha Dickerson

Awards Manager



Illustration 2-1 Personalized Message

When you refer to a category of people that may include both men and women, one option, shown in the next examples, is to make the noun plural and use a plural (gender-free) pronoun.

Examples: Sexist Gender-Free

The doctor should listen to

his patients.

Treat the customer courteously

so she will continue to shop in

our store.

Doctors should listen to their


Treat customers courteously so

they will continue to shop in

our store.

Respond to Messages Promptly

Timeliness is the watchword for diplomatic communication. Therefore, prompt

responses enhance the effectiveness of written communication. A favorable

business reputation is built on orders that are shipped early. In addition, a

timely response may turn a complaint into a business opportunity.

Business etiquette dictates that you send congratulations within two

days of an event and that you answer requests within five working days of

receipt. Practice courteous communication.

Message clarity, a C quality that enhances courtesy, is discussed in

Section 2.

Culture View Japan In Japan, courtesy requires indirect communication: yes may mean “no” or “maybe.”
Culture View
In Japan, courtesy requires indirect communication: yes may
mean “no” or “maybe.” In contrast, business courtesy in the
United States calls for direct communication: asking direct
questions, requesting action plans, and stating specific concerns.

Since the Japanese value the outward appearance of

harmony, they will never say no during a negotiation. Instead, the Japanese will listen

respectfully—even to unacceptable ideas. Etiquette requires them to demonstrate

attentiveness by nodding their heads or saying yes at short intervals. Understand that

positive words and body language are the Japanese way of saying, “Yes, we hear


In the Japanese view, you, the listener, have the responsibility to listen for the true

meaning by understanding implied information. Therefore, listen carefully to the full

replies of Japanese colleagues to determine what they mean.

CLARITY Section 2: The Six C s Courtesy Clarity     Conciseness Concreteness Correctness

Section 2:

The Six Cs








Clarity means writing easy-to-read and easy-to-understand messages. A

clear message keeps the intended receiver in mind. The message should

focus on expressing a thought, not on impressing the reader.

In the following, the unclear examples on the left are written to

impress the reader; the clear examples on the right are written to express

the thought.


To Impress

To Express

The English language device

Capitalization, a punctuation

known as capitalization, using

tool, varies based on different

in printed matter designated

language rules.

letters of larger size, not only is a

punctuation tool of considerable

importance but also is a

tool whose function varies in

accordance with differing,

prescriptive language rules.

The self-explanatory purpose of

the letter address is both to

designate the person to whom

the mailed correspondence is to

be received and to stipulate

the location to which the said

mailed article of correspondence

is to be delivered.

The letter address names the

message receiver and specifies

the delivery location.

At first, you may hesitate to make changes in messages that you

create. Strive, however, to form the habit of rewriting to improve clarity.

Use these points to check messages for clarity:

Select appropriate words.

Place words in an orderly sequence.

Limit use of it and there.

Position phrases correctly.

Position clauses correctly.

Keep sentences short.

Select Appropriate Words

Appropriate word choice improves understanding between writer and

reader. Words that look alike or sound alike frequently cause confusion.

Verify word meanings in a dictionary to avoid offending or misleading a

reader. When preparing spoken messages, use a dictionary to verify

pronunciations. Study the examples of frequently confused words listed in Table 2-2, page 36, and in the Reference Guide.

Table 2-2 Frequently Confused Words




a lot

many; much

Connie had a lot of anxiety.


not acceptable usage


to take or receive

Midori agreed to accept the trophy.


to leave out; other than

Read all the notes except those on


page 22.


to influence or change

Changing chairs did affect his posture.


a result

We cannot see any effect of Carolla’s


new diet.

all right

without error; correct

Zeke’s answers were all right.


not acceptable usage


belonging to it

The dog had its nails clipped.


contraction of it is

The driver said, “It’s time to go.”


to put or place in position

You may lay the book on the desk.


to recline; to be found in a

Lie on the sofa and rest for a few

particular place or position



in the direction of; toward

Move your printer to the right.


besides; also; very

The holiday ended too quickly.


more than one

We do not have chairs for two desks.


belonging to you

Your keyboarding skill is excellent.


contraction of you are

You’re correct about the answer.

Place Words in an Orderly Sequence

Reading messages aloud helps reveal unclear word placement. If the word

order makes you hesitate or reread the statement, try a different word

arrangement. The pattern of subject before verb usually provides the

clearest sequence.

The remarks “Baked is the bread” and “Scrambled are your eggs”

sound awkward. Both statements place the verb before the subject, and the

order appears illogical. In the next examples, notice how placing the subject

before the verb makes the sentences easier to read and understand.


Unclear Word Order

Clear Word Order

Enclosed is your check.

Your check is enclosed.

Burned was the toast.

The toast was burned.

When using a pronoun, be sure that the pronoun restates the intended

reference, the antecedent. Change the word order or word choice when any

confusion exists between a pronoun and an antecedent. Sentences containing

expressions such as his or hers, he and she, or him or her are confusing to

readers. Try rewriting the sentence with a plural antecedent and plural

pronouns. The following examples illustrate how to correct unclear pronoun references:


Unclear Antecedent

Felix called his agent while he was reading the script.

(Does he refer to Felix or to

Felix’s agent?)

Pronouns should not be used

in definitions because they have

unclear meanings.

(They could refer to pronouns

or to definitions.)

Clear Antecedent

While Felix was reading the

script, he called his agent.


Felix called his agent, who

was reading the script.

Definitions containing

pronouns may have unclear



Pronouns used in definitions

may have unclear meanings.

Limit Use of It and There

It, an indefinite reference, often causes the reader to search for a correct

meaning or relationship. With a minimum of effort, you can state exactly

what you mean and limit the use of it. By being specific, you may also

shorten your message. Compare the following sentences:


Indefinite It

Improved Clarity

Please label your clothes with

a waterproof marker.

It is recommended that you

label your clothes with a

waterproof marker.

After the program ends, it is

time for you to leave.

After the program ends, you

may leave.

Just as removing it from sentences often improves clarity, so does

reducing the use of there. When used correctly, the word there refers to a

specific place. Note how both clarity and brevity improve when there is

eliminated in the following examples:


Indefinite There

There are six steps you can use

to ensure message clarity.

Improved Clarity

You can use six steps to ensure

message clarity.

There is no other membership

requirement except age.

Age is the only membership


Position Phrases Correctly

Humor can be an asset in messages. However, you want the reader to laugh

with you, not at you. Incorrectly placed phrases can create unintended humor,

cause misunderstanding, and reduce your credibility. Correctly positioned

phrases reduce the chance of unintended humor, as shown in these examples:

Examples: Incorrect Positioning Correct Positioning

Victor ordered rugs for the new apartment of various colors.

Victor ordered rugs of various colors for the new apartment.

Incorrect Positioning

Dr. Zayas wrote the letter while

flying from Washington to Los

Angeles on the back of an


Correct Positioning

While flying from Washington

to Los Angeles, Dr. Zayas

wrote the letter on the back

of an envelope.

Position Clauses Correctly

The words which and that frequently introduce a clause. If the sentence is clear

and correct without the clause, the clause is nonrestrictive and should be set off

with commas. When the clause is needed for clarity or correctness, the clause

is restrictive and commas should not be inserted. Which generally introduces a

nonrestrictive clause, and that generally introduces a restrictive clause.

Correctly placed clauses make the meaning clearer. Incorrectly placed clauses

can create confusion, as shown in the following examples:

Examples: Incorrect Positioning Correct Positioning

Julia returned the support cast

for her injured leg that she


Please place your donation in

the jar, which is appreciated.

Julia returned the support cast

that she bought for her

injured leg.

Please place your donation,

which is appreciated, in the jar.

Timely Tip
Timely Tip

Use transitional phrases

or words such as

however, next, and

therefore to connect


Keep Sentences Short

State your message in as few words as possible. Lengthy sentences often

cause readers to lose the intended meaning. Most sentences range from 13

to 20 words; the average sentence contains 16 words. Short sentences are

forceful and emphatic. However, short sentences can become choppy unless

you write thoughtfully.

Combine words into sentences that show concern for the reader and that

are easy to understand. Thus, you can maintain courtesy and clarity with brief

sentences. Section 3 contains techniques for writing concise messages.

Section 3 contains techniques for writing concise messages. Section 3: CONCISENESS The Six C s Courtesy
Section 3:

The Six Cs







Keep in mind the exact message that you want to convey to the reader.

Conciseness means saying what needs to be said in as few words as possible.

When you write with brevity, not abruptness, your messages remain both

concise and courteous. Remember that courtesy helps you build and

maintain goodwill. Critique your writing, and make every word meaningful.

As you edit and revise your writing, use the following methods to develop

concise messages that are courteous and clear:

Eliminate unnecessary words.

Select action verbs and efficient words.

Use necessary modifiers.

Write in the active voice.

Eliminate Unnecessary Words

Write naturally! Keep that two-word command in mind as you write messages.

Use a conversational tone that is easy to read. Enhance clarity and

conciseness by using only the necessary words. After you compose a draft,

edit your message to eliminate unnecessary words.

Note the difference in this example:

Example: Wordy

You will quickly come to the

conclusion that unless you

communicate in a consistent

manner, you will jeopardize

your relationships with your



Communication consistency

builds trust with coworkers.

The wordy version contains 23 words. The concise version eliminated

unnecessary words and reduced the word count to six words.

Select Action Verbs and Efficient Words

Some writers use wordy phrases even though action verbs make clearer,

shorter, more concise statements. Compare the wordy phrases with the

action verb messages in the next examples.

Wordy Phrases

Please make an agreement to

purchase the Marco system.


Action Verbs

Please agree to purchase the

Marco system.

Dr. Parker made a contribution

of $500 to St. Jude’s Hospital

for Children.

Dr. Parker contributed $500 to

St. Jude’s Hospital for


Timely Tip
Timely Tip

Write clear sentences

that readers can read

once and understand.

After you choose action verbs, check for efficient, concise words. In the

following examples, note how concise expressions reduce the word count:


Wordy Phrases

Concise Words

Every one of the students

entered the contest.

Every student entered the


Please move the box off of

the desk.

Please move the box off the


Review Table 2-3 for concise expressions that you can use to replace

inefficient words and phrases. You may review additional examples of

concise expressions in the Reference Guide.

Table 2-3 Concise Expressions

Avoid Inefficient Words and Phrases

Use Efficient Words and Phrases

acknowledge receipt of

thank you for

as a matter of fact

in fact; indeed

at an early date

Give a specific date.

at that point in time


at this time; at this point in time


because of the fact that


during the month of May

during May

each and every


enclosed herewith


for an extended period of time

Give an exact time.

for the amount of $320

for $320

I would appreciate it if


in accordance with your suggestion

as you suggested

in spite of the fact that


in the city of Cincinnati

in Cincinnati

in the last analysis

Do not use this phrase.

off of


please do not hesitate to contact us

please contact us

please find enclosed

State what is enclosed.

thank you in advance

Do not use this phrase.

until such time as


Use Necessary Modifiers

Select a word or phrase only when the word or phrase serves a purpose.

Avoid unnecessary modifiers and doublet phrases—phrases that say

the same thing twice, such as the honest truth. Compare the following



Unnecessary Modifiers


Follow the road west in

Follow the road west until you

direction until you see our

see our facility on the right.

facility on the right.

The team leader suggested a

very unique solution.

The team leader suggested a

unique solution.

Review the unnecessary modifiers and doublets listed in Table 2-4.

Table 2-4 Necessary Modifiers

Avoid Doublets and Unnecessary Modifiers

Use Necessary Modifiers

actual truth


basic fundamentals


consensus of opinion


each and every

each or every

entirely complete


exactly identical


first and foremost

first or foremost

honest truth


important essentials


in the year of 2010

in 2010

long in length


maximum possible


merge together


orange in color


repeat again


return back to


round in shape


rules and regulations

rules or regulations

small in size


three in number


very unique


west in direction


Write in the Active Voice

In the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs some action. The

passive voice shows the subject receiving the action. Passive constructions

add unnecessary words, usually in the form of prepositional phrases.

Changing from the passive to the active voice makes the messages more


Examples: Passive Voice Active Voice

The old car was painted by

the technicians.

The technicians painted the

old car.

The overgrown trees were

trimmed by the power company. the overgrown trees.

The power company trimmed

Select the passive voice when you want to avoid placing specific

blame on someone. In a negative situation, the passive voice sounds more

diplomatic and tactful than the active voice. Note how the active voice

examples have accusatory tones:

Culture Frame


Culture Frame Examples: Phonetically pronounce many Japanese words, as shown in these key terms: English


pronounce many

Japanese words, as

shown in these key terms:


Japanese (Pronunciation)

Good day








Excuse me




Thank you


Active Voice

Dora placed the books in the

incorrect positions.

Alex cut the pattern too small.

Passive Voice

The books were placed in the

incorrect positions by Dora.

The pattern was cut too small

by Alex.

Unless you choose the passive voice to ensure diplomacy,

use the active voice to achieve both conciseness and clarity.

You can further refine conciseness and clarity by checking your

messages for concreteness, as discussed in Section 4.


Section 4:

  Section 4: CONCRETENESS The Six C s Concreteness means conveying a message with precise terms.

The Six Cs

Concreteness means conveying a message with precise terms. As a message


sender, you build mental pictures for your readers through your use of


words. The readers’ backgrounds influence their perceptions of your words.


Thus, words have different meanings for different people. If you said,




“Charles has a hit,” a baseball coach might think that Charles will help win

the game. A music producer might think that Charles has composed a song




that soon will be at the top of the sales charts. Use words or phrases that

have definite meanings to convey a concrete message.

These steps will help you write concrete messages.

Establish contact with the reader.

Use precise modifiers.

Avoid opinions or generalizations.

Provide specific details.

Timely Tip
Timely Tip

Reader and receiver are

used interchangeably.

Establish Contact with the Reader

Concreteness in written messages compares with exactness in spoken

messages. When a young boy catches a fish and tells his friends about the

event, he uses his hands, posture, and words to describe the size of the

fish. Even more hand gestures illustrate the struggle he had in pulling the

fish into the boat.

When the boy writes to a relative, he may include with the fishing story

recollections of other family incidents. These recollections help the reader

visualize the fishing adventure. You can use the same approach to establish

contact with readers. When you write a message, build on shared personal or business backgrounds.

Business communication often involves mutual experiences, such as the following:

Sending and receiving documents

Shipping and possibly returning orders

Applying for credit and being either accepted or rejected

Asking for or writing recommendations

If you do not have an experience in common with the receiver, establish

contact and build a concrete message through these techniques:

Mentally picture the person.

Collect as much background information as possible.

Consider the person’s culture and occupation.

Use concrete words that have well-understood meanings.

Use Precise Modifiers

Dynamic verbs show action and motion, whereas static nouns name objects

and ideas. Modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) add meaning and intensity to

other words. When you use adjectives and adverbs, you add strength and

color to nouns and verbs.

Select precise modifiers because research reveals the following facts:

Readers remember precise (concrete) words longer than general words.

Specific terms translate more easily than do broad, general words.

You probably would receive three different answers if you asked three

people the question, “What is a good price for a printer?” Each person

would have a different interpretation for good, and you did not give adequate

information about the type or speed of the printer or about how much you

were willing to pay. The next examples illustrate how precise modifiers or

details provide more concreteness than vague modifiers.

Examples: Vague Modifiers Precise Expressions

Our storage facility offers large

climate-controlled units.

(Will readers agree on what

large means?)

Our new product will arrive


(Will all customers have the

same concept of soon? Indicate

an exact date.)

Our storage facility offers 15-

by 20-foot climate-controlled


Our new product arrives

October 1.

Business writing uses Standard English rather than formal English.

Formal prose is usually reserved for academic and literary writing. Overuse

of formal vocabulary makes a business writer sound pretentious.

Also, overusing modifiers may make messages sound insincere and may

create a sense of distrust. Replace vague terms with precise modifiers. Develop and maintain credibility by writing clearly and precisely.


Overused Modifiers

Take advantage of the very

lowest prices you’ll ever find


(The typical customer does

not believe superlatives.)

Customers who use Expo

Marketing products build a

more positive image.

(Will everyone agree on how to

measure a positive image?)

Precise Expressions

Take advantage of the 50

percent discount off our

regular prices.

Customers who have used

Expo Marketing products

have shown a 10 percent gain

on the Baker Image Scale.

Review Table 2-5 for suggestions on how to change vague modifiers to

precise modifiers.

Table 2-5 Precise Expressions


How to Avoid


Vague Modifiers

Use Precise Expressions

as soon as possible

State an exact date or time.

Please return the form by Monday, June 12.


Provide specific information.

The 250-LK scans six pages per minute, which


is two pages faster than the 150-LK model.


State the size or measurement.

You will need 8

1 / 2-inch

by 14-inch paper for


the form.


State the exact rate of speed.

Rafael inputs text at the rate of 65 words per




State a number.

Carmen bought three reams of paper.


Describe fully.

Yoriko used 20-pound bond paper with


25 percent rag content.



State the exact height.

The windows begin 10 inches above the floor


and measure 4 1 / 2 feet wide by 9 feet high.


Describe the size.

Aluminum foil measures 660 microns thick, but


plastic wrap measures only 25 microns thick.


State the distance or measurement.

Bonito commutes 42 miles to work each




State a number.

Alex requested 30 new printers.


State the difference in numbers.

Jennifer completed five mailable letters;


Melissa produced three draft copies.


Quote an exact number or percentage.

Sang completed 97 percent of the problems


within the time limit.



State a number.

Savita purchased seven printer cartridges.


State the exact rate of speed.

The 125-IT printer produces 15 pages per minute.

Table 2-5 Precise Expressions (continued)


How to Avoid Vague Modifiers



Use Precise Expressions


Quote an exact number or percentage.

Manuel sold six ads for the newspaper.


State an exact date or time.

Wendy, please fax the message by 2 p.m.



too much

State exactly how much variance

Curt’s score on the math test was three points


below the acceptable limit.


Explain the benefit.

Donors receive a ticket to the awards banquet


and a tax deduction.

Avoid Opinions and Generalizations

When people ask for your opinion, think about what information they need

before you respond. If you have a negative opinion or if you do not agree

with their position, exercise caution. When you are not sure what information

they really want, ask for clarification. The following examples demonstrate the

differences between opinions and requests.

Examples: Opinions Courteous Requests

You should join our focus group. Please join our focus group.

I think the data would look

better in table format.

Please consider displaying the

data in table format.

Generalizations, vague or sweeping statements, often appear in written

messages when the writer is attempting to persuade readers. Advertisers

sometimes make broad, inclusive claims. Experienced advertisers exercise

caution with generalizations because many consumers do comparison

shopping. Note how these examples change generalizations into specific


Examples: Generalization Specific Information

Our kit offers the ideal solution

for accessing the Internet.

(Will everyone have the same

concept of ideal?)

Our holiday jewelry sale offers

extraordinary values on gold


(Will all customers define

extraordinary in the same way?)

Our ZoomPorte, a complete

Internet kit, includes the V.34

external data fax modem and

$400 worth of software on

one CD.

Our 14kt gold pendants are

$70.50, a savings of 30 percent

during the holiday sale.

Timely Tip
Timely Tip

Effective communication

serves as a bridge

between cultures,

allowing people to

interact and enrich their

understanding of how

other people live.

Provide Specific Details

Effective messages contain specific details that are clear to both the sender

and the receiver. Show concern for the receivers by providing specific

details, such as sources of information your readers may need or want.

Suppose prospective clients called a vendor and asked that someone

meet them at the airport. The vendor, eager to make a sale, agreed to meet

the clients at the baggage claim area at 7:30. Unfortunately, the agreement

lacked specific details, such as the name of the airline carrier and whether

the arrival time was a.m. or p.m.

Imagine the vendor’s concern when the clients could not be located at

the luggage carousel for any 7:30 a.m. incoming flight. In a large airport,

checking all carriers and incoming flights could take hours. The clients had

not indicated the name of the carrier and the 7:30 p.m. arrival time. Also,

the vendor should have asked for vital information. Complete details would

have saved time and concern for all parties.

A concrete message is exact. As you develop concrete messages, you

also verify correctness. Correctness, the next quality of effective messages,

is discussed in Section 5.


Section 5:


The Six Cs

Correctness means that the details of a message are accurate. Details


involve not only the message content but also the message appearance.


The correctness of your messages depends on your proofreading skills.


Good proofreaders use reference tools to check message content and


evaluate message appearance. The following four reference tools will help




you produce correct messages:



1. A dictionary

2. A thesaurus (either printed or electronic version)

3. A word division manual

4. A format guide

Use a dictionary as a general reference to check spelling and word meaning.

Consult a thesaurus for acceptable word choices. Verify preferable word

division points in a word division manual. Refer to the Format Guide for

acceptable message layouts.

Sending correct messages builds your credibility. In the workplace, a

reputation for accuracy enhances your competence and helps you build a

successful career. After you have written a draft of your message, complete

the following tasks to ensure message correctness:

Verify spelling.

Select correct words or phrases.

Insert appropriate punctuation.

Check names, places, dates, times, and amounts.

Evaluate message appearance.

Verify Spelling

Misspellings of frequently used words may be difficult to locate if you just

give your message a quick once-over. However, a misspelled word may

change the meaning of a sentence or may create a negative impression

about you and your organization. Be absolutely sure every word is correct

before you transmit your message.

In addition to a standard dictionary, you may need a trade or professional

dictionary to check the spelling of technical or specialized terms. When

you key a document in a word processing program, use the spell checker.

However, do not rely on an electronic spell checker to detect errors in word

usage. Spell checkers cannot determine whether you have used a word

properly in the context of your message. Recheck spelling when you add

new text or change word endings during the writing process.

Select Correct Words and Phrases

Selecting the word or phrase that correctly communicates your meaning

can be challenging. The English language has borrowed words and expressions

from many languages. As a result, English contains many homonyms

(words that are spelled and pronounced alike but have different meanings)

and homophones (words that sound alike but have different spellings and

meanings). Select correct words and phrases for accurate messages. Be

especially alert for words and phrases that sound alike but have different

spellings and meanings. These examples illustrate how word choice affects


Examples: Word Choice Discussion

Answering e-mail messages is

an everyday activity for me.

Every day provides you with

opportunities to develop new


Nobody answered the phone.

No body of county officials has

permission to appoint a city


Everyday as one word means

“usual” or “routine.”

Every day indicates each new


Nobody as one word indicates

a person.

No body represents a

group composed of people.

Table 2-6, on page 48, lists selected words and phrases with proper

meanings and examples.

Selecting correct words and phrases also involves checking your messages

for subject and verb agreement and for parallel structure. Parallel structure means using the same grammatical form throughout a list or

within a sentence. These examples illustrate nonparallel structures and show how to make the statements parallel:


Nonparallel Structure

Parallel Structure

Minimum maintenance should

include the following:

1. Check oil and water levels

2. Balancing tires

3. Check air pressure

Minimum maintenance should

include the following:

1. Checking oil and water levels

2. Balancing tires

3. Checking air pressure

The computer operator’s duties

are completing the log, starting

and stopping all runs, and to

make minor repairs.

The computer operator’s

duties are to complete the

log, start and stop all runs,

and make minor repairs.

Table 2-6 Correct Word Choice

Word or


Proper Meaning



completely; wholly

Your suggestions are altogether correct.

all together

in one group

The business teachers were all together at the




forever; consistently

Always proofread your messages.

all ways

every possible choice

Please consider all ways of transmitting your




implies division with three or

The manager divided the tasks among four

more elements



implies division with two elements

Timothy divided the cake between Elizabeth and me.


shows ability

She can play a violin.


implies permission; indicates possibility

You may go to Europe.


We may complete the project by Monday.

different from


How is their accounting method different from ours?

different than

not acceptable usage


amounting to a small number

Galen sold a few oranges.



not so much; not so well; (uncountable)

The architect allocated less space for attic storage.


pleasant; attractive; appealing (adjective)

They toured a good museum in Ohio.


in a satisfactory manner (adverb),

Sergio works well in the computer lab.

fortunate; healthy (adjective)

I feel well today.


having or taking no concern

Regardless of the time, she works until she


completes the task.


not acceptable usage


takes the place of a person as the

Who answered the question?

subject of a verb


takes the place of a person as the object of a verb, a preposition, or an infinitive

You will go to the meeting with whom?

Insert Appropriate Punctuation

Punctuation marks serve as traffic signs for readers. Commas indicate caution—slow down or pause to comprehend the meaning. Semicolons tell

readers to yield for the next thought. Periods and question marks mean

readers should come to a complete stop before they proceed to the next

sentence. Punctuate messages according to punctuation rules. When you

insert appropriate punctuation in the correct locations, you maintain clarity

for readers.

Punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence. Compare the

following two examples:


Punctuation Effect

“Sprouted grain bread,” said

the nutritionist, “can be traced

to ancient times.”

Sprouted grain bread said the

nutritionist can be traced to

ancient times.


The first example indicates

that a certain type of bread

can be traced to ancient times.

The second example implies

not only that bread is speaking

but also that a certain

nutritionist can be traced to

ancient times.

Timely Tip
Timely Tip

To form the plurals of

numbers and letters,

simply add s (2001s,

ABCs). If adding s forms

a word or causes

confusion, use the

apostrophe (Dot your

i’s and cross your t’s).

For her research, Celia

consulted with the architect,

Corrine, Mr. Jeffries, the

builder, and Stacy, the interior


The third example lists

five people.

For her research, Celia consulted

with the architect; Corrine; Mr.

Jeffries, the builder: and Stacy,

the interior designer.

The fourth example lists four


Culture Frame

The fourth example lists four people. Culture Frame For her research, Celia consulted with the architect,

For her research, Celia consulted

with the architect, Corrine; Mr.

Jeffries, the builder; and Stacy,

the interior designer.

The fifth example lists three


The Japanese believe

people in positions of

responsibility should

be shown respect at all times. Japanese

workers may refer to managers by their

titles instead of by their names. Some

Japanese titles and their English

translations are listed here.

Chairman: Kaicho

President: Shacho

Vice President: Fuku Shacho

Director: Torishimariyaku

General manager: Bucho

Section chief: Kacho

Proofread aloud to be sure you insert the correct punctuation.

If the message sounds awkward or causes you to hesitate,

check the punctuation.

Check Names, Places, Dates,

Times, and Amounts

Effective messages contain complete and correct names, places,

dates, times, and amounts. Avoid confusion, lost time, effort, and

money for your receivers. Check names, places, dates, times, and amounts twice for accuracy.

Evaluate Message Appearance

After verifying content correctness, evaluate the message for correct

appearance. Correct appearance includes the style and placement of the


Most business messages follow standard company guidelines and

practices. The Format Guide illustrates business and personal message

formats. The message placement on a page, form, screen, or letterhead

produces an image in the reader’s mind. To make a good impression, the

message should be formatted correctly and attractively, as well as be free

of keying errors.


Section 6:

  Section 6: COMPLETENESS The Six C s Individual words express parts of a whole thought.

The Six Cs

Individual words express parts of a whole thought. Several words work


together to express an entire thought in a sentence. Sentences become


building blocks for messages. A complete message uses sentences to


answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. A complete


message also promotes goodwill.


Answer Who, What, When,




Where, Why, and How

When you are developing a message, you do not need to answer the

questions who, what, when, where, why, and how in a prescribed order. You

must include all the appropriate answers, however, to have a complete

message. After writing a draft of your message, use the criteria in

Table 2-7 to evaluate your message for completeness.

Table 2-7 Completeness Criteria


Who is the intended receiver? Is the content appropriate for the

intended receiver?


What is your objective? Will the reader know what to do?


When should the reader respond? Have you included complete,

accurate details?


Where should the reader respond? Have you identified names,

postal and electronic addresses, telephone and fax numbers?


Why should the reader respond? Have you stated a benefit for the



Have you encouraged a positive response? Does your message

promote goodwill?

Illustration 2-2 shows a complete, clear message.


Suite 1-B • 3110 West Palafox Street • Orlando, FL 32968-0110

Telephone: 619.555.1890 • Fax: 619.555.1820







April 16, 20—

Mrs. Betty Williams

The Williams Agency

4211 Palm Way

Tampa, FL 33946-4211

Dear Mrs. Williams

Thank you for agreeing to speak at the Third Annual Thompson County

Business Development Conference from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. on Thursday,

June 12. The conference committee appreciates your willingness to focus your

presentation on the tools needed for successful grant writing.

Twelve chamber members, as well as 24 local business leaders, will join you

in the Great Oaks Convention Center, 1190 West Cervantes Street, for

your two-hour presentation. Since the committee must submit grant

proposals by July 1, please specifically address the following issues:

• Grant-writing principles

• Potential state and federal funding sources

• Pitfalls to avoid when writing and submitting grant proposals

Closing builds


A copy of the conference brochure is attached. Please be our guest at any

session convenient for you.


Alice Butler

Alice Butler

Executive Director



Illustration 2-2 Complete Message

Notice how the following example does not satisfactorily answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how:


Please attend our in-service meeting on Thursday at 5 p.m. The

meeting will end by 6:30 p.m.

Who? Your name was included on the distribution list, but you

do not know who is sponsoring the meeting.

What? An in-service meeting is being held, but you do not know

what kind of a program is planned.

When? The meeting begins at 5 p.m. and ends by 6:30 p.m., but

you do not know which Thursday to attend.

Where? You do not know the location of the meeting.

Why? The reason for this particular meeting is unknown.

How? You do not know how the meeting will benefit you.

Ethics in Action

not know how the meeting will benefit you. Ethics in Action Access http://brantley. Analyze the

Access http://brantley. Analyze

the Ethics in Action for

Chapter 2.

Maintain Goodwill

Develop clear, complete messages so readers will understand you. Your

complete message will more effectively promote goodwill when readers

know exactly what you are asking for or what you are offering to do.


Make sure your messages incorporate the six Cs of effective messages.




Show concern for the intended receiver.


Compose messages that are simple and easy to



State what needs to be said in as few words as possible.


Convey a message with precise terms.


Provide accurate details in an acceptable format.


Include all pertinent information.

All six Cs are necessary for effective communication. Use effective

communication to promote goodwill and to obtain positive responses from

your readers.

Complete Communication Skills Development 2, pages 67–68. For

additional pronoun review, see the Reference Guide, pages




Directions: In the space provided, rewrite the sentences to incorporate

the you attitude.


We need to know the rates for your delivery service.


We will show the annual dividend from Plano Investments on your

December statement.


I have added your name to our preferred customer list.


We’ve made your new statement easier to read.


We’re delighted you chose an Orion scanner.


I think your report was interesting, well researched, and well written.


I am giving you a bonus for your energy-saving suggestion.


We need to receive up-to-date sales figures from you each day.


We offer three billing options from which you may choose.


I will deliver your products on Tuesday.

11. We appreciate your buying our products.

12. We accept credit cards.

13. We think your quarterly report will become a useful document as you

plan your investments.

14. Allie, we want to thank you for completing the survey.

15. I want you to change the sexist terms to gender-free terms.

Chapter 2

The Six Cs of Effective Messages


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Directions: Change the negative statements to positive statements.

1. Do not use negative words in your messages.

2. Do not hesitate to call us when you need additional information.

3. You should not react negatively to constructive criticism.

4. Avoid separating the icons from the margin notes.

5. Never fail to clean your work area before you leave each day.

6. Do not use the express lane if you have more than ten items in your

shopping cart.

7. Refrain from opening sentences with the word there.

8. You should not misspell names in a message.

9. You may not use the drive-through banking service before 9 a.m.

10. Do not forget to lock the door when you leave.

54 Chapter 2

The Six Cs of Effective Messages

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Directions: Change the sexist terms below to gender-free terms.

1. A personal trainer must have her current CPR card.

2. The realty company is seeking a new salesman.

3. Maxum Productions needs two cameramen to film the performance.

4. A student who plans to become a computer engineer must include

higher-level math courses in his degree plan.

5. Three firemen were injured while they brought the fire under control.

6. The mailman used proper lifting techniques to move the heavy bag.

7. A lawyer should do her best to defend her clients.

8. Does the league need a soccer linesman?

9. The labor force needs skilled workmen.

10. Ask the waitress to bring our check.

Chapter 2

The Six Cs of Effective Messages


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Directions: Underline the word that makes the statement complete and



When the area code changes, please order new (stationery, stationary).


(Your, You’re) analysis covers all sides of the issue.


The (cite, site) for the new clinic is 1107 Jackson Street.


Because the temperature was (to, too) cold, the ceremony was



We (complimented, complemented) the caterer who prepared the



Dr. Hallock asked the (personnel, personal) to please be quiet.


He has the (rite, right) to expect their cooperation.


Mrs. Kruger asked Dr. Hallock for permission to (lay, lie) down for five



The clinic administrator asked Dr. Hallock to serve on the local

medical (council, counsel).


Dr. Fitzpatrick (preceded, proceeded) Dr. Hallock as the clinic


11. Dr. Hallock will travel (farther, further) than other medical


12. The clinic is located two blocks (past, passed) the Wingate Store.

13. The administrator gave two directions; the nurse followed the (latest,

latter) one.

14. Dr. Smythe and Dr. Lambert earned (their, there) degrees from the

same university.

15. (To, Too) many graphs and charts can be confusing for the reader.

16. The office manager purchased (loose, lose) pages to refill the training


17. Our staff members appeared (quiet, quite) pleased with the manuals.

18. The members asked (weather, whether) they could keep the manuals

56 Chapter 2

on their desks.

19. The office manager encouraged everyone to make a (conscience,

conscious) effort to review the manuals.

20. Since the (fiscal, physical) year ends on June 30, please send

your reports to Dr. Lambert by July 10.

The Six Cs of Effective Messages

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Directions: In the space provided, rewrite the sentences to eliminate

the words it and there.


There are hundreds of claims that have been filed.


It is a good idea to arrive early for an interview.


It is a requirement for you to attend every meeting.


It is important to maintain a balanced diet.


Can you see if there is anyone outside the building?


There were eight times when we had to reschedule patients.


It was stated by Heather that an hour of dancing can burn between

200 and 400 calories.


There is a Mr. Stuart from Omni Associates here to talk with you.


It will be February 10 before you will receive your materials.


There are numerous learning projects available on the Internet.

11. This letter isn’t dated, is it?

12. We expect a demand for this printer, and we may not have enough

stock to meet it.

13. It was recommended by Eric Templeton that you form the habit of

rewriting to improve message clarity.

14. There is no other entrance requirement except a 90 percent test score.

15. It is necessary to balance the budget by next year.

Chapter 2

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58 Chapter 2

Directions: In the space provided, rewrite the following sentences; use

action verbs and efficient words and phrases.


The new mouse pads are exactly identical to the old ones.


The coach stressed the basic fundamentals in basketball.


The watch was mailed under separate cover.


In the majority of instances, credit isn’t free.


You may preview the tapes for an extended period of time.


Rosa said, “The mayor’s speech was long in length.”


Please find enclosed your dividend check.


Did you know that the first major league night baseball game was

played in the city of Cincinnati in the year of 1935?


James has made a decision to give each and every employee a two-

week holiday in the month of December.


Every one of the employees accepted his offer.

11. I would appreciate it if you would send me a catalog.

12. Ralph made a contribution of $5,000.

13. The chest was made out of walnut.

14. Victor signed a contract in the amount of $125,000.

15. Chris and Elizabeth provided a solution for the traffic problem.

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Directions: In the space provided, rewrite the following e-mail message to

improve conciseness and clarity.

Attach Detach Send Send Address Format Spelling Files Files Now Later